I was blessed enough to receive a PC and PS5 key to test The Lord of the Rings: Gollum early on behalf of TheOneRing.net. My goal here is to describe my play-through scenarios, what type of system I run the game on, what I liked, what wasn’t for me, and ultimately… how much I actually enjoyed playing the game.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is developed by Daedalic Entertainment and is also published by them as well as Nacon. The game is available or will be available on multiple platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC. You will need to make sure your system is compatible and the game has released on it in order to play.
PC experience and PS5 performance experience
I play on a fairly high end gaming PC that was built about two years ago for over $2,000 USD. I also played the game on my PlayStation 5. Right off the bat I do have to tell you folks that while the game ran well for me on PC and I didn’t encounter many bugs or anything game breaking, this was not my experience on PS5. And I prefer gaming on my PS5 as it’s hooked up to a 65-inch OLED television and surround sound speakers.
On my PS5 I was able to play the game over the weekend and all throughout the first chapter of the game I encountered crashes. I would interact with objects and crash. I would try to skip some of the story by holding down circle on the PS5 controller to avoid crashing and I would still crash. It would reset my progress a decent bit and I would have to complete the same objectives multiple times waiting for a time where it actually finishes and I get the credit for it. I was playing the game with the higher graphics setting on and when I switched to performance mode and turned off the Gollum hair animation/physics it fixed the majority of the issues I was having.
During the weekend we did receive an email update letting us know that the Gollum hair setting was the culprit and there would be a day one patch for the game to fix this before players started playing. This was great to hear. The rest of my play time went through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to completion. The only other bug I encountered was toward the end of Chapter 1 after a cutscene. Once it was done playing, I no longer had a cave or anything around me and any direction I chose to move Gollum I would fall about 1,000 feet to my death which did give me a chuckle. And it gave me an achievement!
Like an old-school Assassin’s Creed
The game plays like an old-school Assassin’s Creed with much less focus on combat. Gollum would rather knock an enemy over or choke them long enough to get away from them than try to actually fight most foes. You spend most of the game doing parkour, climbing over, crawling under and trying to remain unseen or undetected.
The buttons are easy to learn and I had no problems completing the tasks. There are items to collect on each map so sometimes you will want to play through multiple times if you are being a bit of a completionist. There are times where Gollum has dialogue choices. Sometimes the dialogue choices are in response to an NPC and other times it’s Gollum trying to convince his other half to do something.
I didn’t have time to find out, but I would love to know whether the story changes based on the decisions you make. If it does change parts of the story then I would probably play through each chapter to beat it, then to get all missing collectibles and achievements, and then again to make sure I got to experience the full story.
Present and past
On the story front, you see many characters, both friendly and foe, who you will know immediately. The game flashes back often, at least early on, between current day Gollum who is imprisoned for questioning, and the flashback Gollum who is sharing his side of the story of the events of what has happened to him during this period.
Fans of the books interested in playing the game will have a good idea of where the story intends to go immediately. Newer folks to the fandom might be taken on a nice joy ride where if this is an enjoyable experience for them they may find themselves more interested in picking up Tolkien’s books to see what is says in there, and understand where Daedalic had the freedom to tell their story.
I know some lore purists will have issues with different parts of the story but I am open to adaptations and I honestly do have fun when playing the game when its not crashing.
I am looking forward to the Day 1 patch to continue my playthrough. The crashes were very frustrating and I think most folks can understand that. When the game wasn’t crashing it was genuinely enjoyable for me.
That being said I know most people won’t read the full review. They just want a TL:DR and score, right?
TL:DR: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a fun game to me as a fan of the material that comes from Tolkien. I enjoyed playing the bits that I could play and while I am at work I do think about playing the game different ways when I get home. However, I did encounter one major bug and I experienced a series of major crashes early on related to a setting that I am told would be fixed on Day 1 of release. If that is the case I give the game a 7 out of 10.
When the game is playable I am definitely having fun. When it’s crashing I want to pull my hair out to match Gollum.
I would be buying this on day one regardless because I am a mark for all things Tolkien and Lord of the Rings but my advice to folks who are going to part with their hard-earned cash is wait for more reviews to come out after the day one patch and see if it fixed the issues that myself, and I am sure, others, will tell you about.
When playable: 7/10
If the Day 1 patch doesn’t fix the crashing players might experience: 5/10
A few weeks ago, Daedalic invited TheOneRing.net and others to a special hands-on playthrough session of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, followed by a Q&A session with Tolkien lore expert Damiri Knapheide. With almost an hour of playtime across many levels, I had the chance to see a bit of the world they have created, and the lovely chat with Damiri did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for a full playthrough on release day, May 25th.
As a casual gamer on the best of days, I was not the easiest guest for our hosts to guide through each level – we had many a laugh at my ineptitude with various controller skills, but I was still having a blast, and didn’t feel like I was in over my head or wouldn’t enjoy the game at my own speed and skill level. The gameplay is focused on stealth, but I was here for the story driven experience – seeing Mirkwood and Mordor through the eyes of talented artists, who clearly have a passion and deep respect for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
The team chose as their backdrop the period of time between Bilbo’s escape from the goblins in The Hobbit, and when the fellowship enters the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. What happened with Sméagol/Gollum in those years? The books tell us a few tidbits of information, for example through Gandalf’s exposition and in the Appendices – this game connects those dots into a coherent story. The dual (dueling?) personalities are at the forefront in this game’s morality system, with many opportunities to choose different actions and responses based on your preference for whether you feel like Slinker or Stinker (Sam’s words) at the time. These choices affect the game play significantly – we were told that one level is completely different based on your morality choices to that point.
I was impressed with the narrative department at Daedalic, represented in this session by Damiri Knapheide. It’s a tough job with many people watching carefully – complex rights issues around books (some usable, some not), movie and media representations, and a very particular fan-base. Damiri’s passion and knowledge were obvious to me, and I definitely look forward to having more opportunities to chat with him informally in the future if the opportunity arises. Even in the brief hour I had to wander in their game, there were scores of subtle background nods to the wider corpus, and backstories for prominent lore figures that were alive at this time.
With an estimated 25-30 hour playthrough time and the chance to play multiple times making different choices in the morality system, I only had a glimpse of all the game has to offer. A challenge with a game of this nature, squeezed in between two fixed points in time and character development, the question remains – can Daedalic tell a good story, where your choices have an impact, and yet end with the same Sméagol/Gollum as we know him when he meets up with Frodo and Sam in the books? I look forward to finding out.
Be sure to check out the new story trailer on YouTube.
Here is today’s press announcement for the game release:
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum™ Slinks Out of the Shadows on May 25th
The story-driven adventure across Middle-earth arrives this May for PC and consoles— Sméagol will swear it on the Precious!
Hamburg, Germany, March 23rd, 2023 – Today Daedalic Entertainment and NACON announced that their highly anticipated adventure game, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, will release to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on May 25th. A version for Nintendo Switch™ is planned for later this year. Based on the beloved TheLord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, the fantasy game takes players on an epic journey across Middle-earth, starring one of the lore‘s most compelling characters: Sméagol – *Gollum, Gollum*.
Check out fresh gameplay from Middle-earth, with insights from the developers inspired by the iconic lore. Daedalic and Nacon will stream a special showcase at 06:30 pm CET on Twitch today.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a story-driven action adventure. Embark on a perilous journey as Gollum, chasing the only thing that is precious to you. Climb, leap, and sneak your way past dangers or into advantageous spots. Gollum is skillful and sly, and torn by a split personality. It is up to you to decide whether to yield to the darker side of Gollum or trust the kinder gentler hint of Sméagol.
Co-published by Daedalic Entertainment and NACON, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is developed by a small team of passionate Tolkienites at Daedalic Entertainment in partnership with Middle-earth Enterprises. The game will release on PC, PlayStation®4, PlayStation®5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch™. A physical edition for consoles will also be available.
NACON is a company of the BIGBEN Group founded in 2019 to optimize its know-how through strong synergies in the video game market. By bringing together its 16 development studios, the publishing of AA video games, the design and distribution of premium gaming devices, NACON focuses 30 years of expertise at the service of players. This new unified business unit strengthens NACON’s position in the market and enables it to innovate by creating new unique competitive advantages. https://corporate.nacongaming.com/
About Daedalic Entertainment
Daedalic Entertainment publishes and develops high-quality games for all platforms. The company has a diverse line-up of high-quality titles, including classic adventures, RPGs, and strategy and multiplayer games. With an international team of around 100 employees, Daedalic is currently developing a new line-up of innovative games across consoles, PC, and mobile platforms.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, Daedalic is one of Europe’s most acclaimed publishers and developers. With a total of 32 awards in the German Developers Award (including multiple accolades for ‘Studio of the Year’) and 12 German Computer Game Awards for genre-defining games such as Deponia, Edna & Harvey, Silence, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, The Long Journey Home, and State of Mind, Daedalic is a record holder for the two most prestigious game awards in Germany. Recent publishing hits include Barotrauma, Unrailed!, Iratus: Lord of the Dead, Partisans 1941 and more.
Daedalic is currently developing The Lord of the Rings – Gollum. The story-driven adventure tells the story of Gollum from a perspective never witnessed before in any storytelling media, all the while staying faithful to the legendary books of J.R.R. Tolkien.
About Middle-earth Enterprises
Middle-earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien is the definitive, deepest, richest and most beloved fantasy world of our time. As its stewards and custodians, our goal is to consistently deliver a wealth of great content in both new, and known formats; to ensure Middle-earth’s rightful place as the world’s leading fantasy IP and brand, forever.
Inspired by our deep appreciation for the fictional world created by Professor Tolkien, we are dedicated to working with those providing highest quality products in accordance with best green business and sustainability practices, including fair trade, equality in the workplace, and a commitment to protect our earth, its wondrous beauty and the viability of every living creature. Middle-earth Enterprises has been producing and licensing films, merchandise, services, and live stage productions based upon The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books, for more than four decades. www.middleearth.com.